As part of its commitment to promoting effective teaching and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, the Texas Instruments (TI) Foundation presented its Innovations in STEM Teaching Awards recently to 14 teachers from the Dallas, Mesquite, Plano and Richardson Independent School Districts (ISDs) at a ceremony at TI’s Dallas headquarters.

Since 2007, the TI Foundation has invested $900,000 in the STEM Awards to recognize and help retain 90 excellent teachers in these North Texas school districts.  

The 2014 Texas Instruments Foundation Innovations in STEM Teaching Award winners. First Row, L to R: Melissa McGee (Mesquite ISD), Saniyyah Thomas (Dallas ISD), Dr. Durgha Shanmugan-Johnson (Dallas ISD), Lauren Gay (Richardson ISD), Ann Bailey (Richardson ISD), and Brian Smith (Dallas ISD). Second row, L to R: Kristopher Stewart (Dallas ISD), Dusty Vincer (Plano ISD), Deanna Shea (Plano ISD), Heather Simpson (Plano ISD), LaShonda Roberson (Dallas ISD), Elizabeth Jordan (Dallas ISD), Mark Wilburn (Mesquite ISD) and Thelvie Cullins (Dallas ISD).

The awards honor local secondary math and science teachers who consistently demonstrate quality instruction and build student achievement in the STEM subjects. Each honoree receives $10,000, of which $5,000 is directly awarded to the teacher. The other $5,000 is to be used at his or her discretion for professional development or instructional technology. The grants are awarded through the Richardson ISD Excellence in Education Foundation, the Plano ISD Education Foundation, the Mesquite ISD Education Foundation and the Dallas Education Foundation.

“We are proud to recognize the achievements these teachers are making in the classroom, and we truly value the important work they are doing” said Ann Pomykal, TI Foundation director of major education gifts. “Without effective STEM teachers, students might not see the relevance of these disciplines to their future.”

“We focus our support on teacher effectiveness as a key strategy to improving student achievement in math and science.  We’re especially passionate about reaching girls and minorities who are underrepresented in STEM careers in North Texas as well as throughout the country,” she said.  “These teachers are creating a better future by making the STEM fields exciting and accessible to all students.”

Principals nominate teachers for the STEM awards based on criteria, such as demonstrating and documenting teaching effectiveness, establishing classroom innovation, participating in education activities outside the classroom, and encouraging curiosity and increasing interest in STEM subjects among students. Teams within each district review the applications and make classroom observations. A list of finalists is then submitted to the districts’ foundations, and winners are selected.

The 14 TI Foundation STEM Award recipients for 2014 are:

Dallas ISD
Thelvie Cullins, School for the Talented and Gifted, teaches math.
Elizabeth Jordan, Emmett J. Conrad High School, teaches engineering.
LaShonda Roberson, Raul Quintanilla Sr. Middle School, teaches science.
Dr. Durgha Shanmugan-Johnson, Hillcrest High School, teaches science.
Brian Romero Smith, Harry Stone Montessori Academy, teaches middle school technology and computer science.
Kristopher Stewart, Francisco Medrano Middle School, teaches math.
Saniyyah Thomas, James Madison High School, teaches chemistry.

Mesquite ISD
Melissa McGee, Dr. Ralph H. Poteet High School, teaches biology.
Mark Wilburn, Vanston Middle School, teaches science.

Plano ISD
Deanna Shea, Shepton High School, teaches science.
Heather Simpson, Robinson Middle School, teaches science.
Dusty Vincer, Plano East Senior High School, teaches biology.

Richardson ISD
Ann Bailey, Richardson North Junior High School, teaches math.
Lauren Gay, Richardson High School, teaches math.

The STEM Awards are just one of many initiatives of the TI Foundation, which has led and supported innovative education programs for decades. Education is the Foundation’s primary philanthropic focus, with grants specifically enhancing STEM education and supporting effective teaching.

Innovation and technology change have led to demand for STEM competencies beyond traditional STEM occupations – skills necessary for innovation are scattered across a wider swath of the economy.

“These teachers are instilling in their students a passion for new ideas and a desire to solve tough technical challenges. Most importantly, they are preparing the next generation of innovators,” Pomykal said.